Policy Audit: A heteronormativity audit of RMSA - a higher education programme in Indian schools

Institute of Development Studies (IDS)
Publication date: 
Friday, 20 December, 2013



This report shares the findings of a sexuality and gender audit of a national government programme to strengthen secondary school education in India (ie the last four years of schooling).

The programme is titled the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), a scheme for universalisation of access to and improvement of quality at the secondary stage. Since universalisation of elementary education has become a constitutional mandate, the goal of the RMSA scheme is to achieve universal secondary education.

Its vision is to make quality education available and affordable to all young persons aged 14–18. RMSA aims to enhance access, quality and equity as they relate to secondary education, with a focus on marginalised young people such as girls, Dalits, Muslims and those who have disabilities.

This report contributes to a new and emerging area of knowledge – and demonstrates how development policy and programme audits through the lens of sexuality and gender can be undertaken. This is an important and challenging area because, as we see in the case of RMSA, development policies and programmes tend not even to mention the word 'sexuality', while being replete with constructions of sexuality and with implicit or explicit messages about the need to be disciplined and to control one's desires. Such messages conflict with ground-level realities and have grave implications for the lives of those who are seen to break sexual and gender norms.

  • Fears about sexuality are a key reason for parents withdrawing girls from secondary education. This includes fears about girls' expressing their desires as well as fears about sexual violence.
  • The only place where sexuality is addressed in the examinable curriculum is through human reproduction in science textbooks. Evidence suggests that this is often taught inadequately as teachers feel inhibited and lack the skills to deliver the content appropriately.
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